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A picture is worth 50,000 vacuum tubes.
January 24, 2013 10:51 AM   Subscribe

Possibly the World's First Computer Art? An Atlantic article discusses how in the late 1950s, an anonymous IBM employee made a lady from the pages of Esquire come to life on the screen of a Situation Display Console of a AN/FSQ-7 computer that was part of the SAGE (Semi-Automatic Ground Environment) project.
posted by BigHeartedGuy (17 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
10 print "va"
20 print "va"
30 print "voom"
40 goto 10
run
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:02 AM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have a computer generated pencil drawing in my house ("The Arctangent") from when my grandfather was in the Navy. The computer in question was one of the last mechanical computers. I consider it some of the earliest computer graphics, depending on how you look at things.
posted by poe at 11:09 AM on January 24, 2013


So as usual, porn leads in the vanguard of new media.
posted by Atreides at 11:26 AM on January 24, 2013


But which of those pictures is the porn?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:29 AM on January 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


I believe "Hubba Hubba" is appropriate here.
posted by tommasz at 11:29 AM on January 24, 2013


I consider it some of the earliest computer graphics, depending on how you look at things.

I suppose the image in the FPP could be the first piece of computer art shown on a display. Knowing engineers, I have to think there were earlier...experiments...produced via print-outs or plots of some sort.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:37 AM on January 24, 2013


Before my time- We had to settle for images printed on a 1403. The one I had was multi-strike, so somewhat more detailed than the CRT image (and sexier than Santa) . Wonder if I still have it.
posted by MtDewd at 11:37 AM on January 24, 2013


Every time I read about SAGE, I'm just kinda blown away. On the one hand, it was the first massively distributed computer system, an enormous leap forward for computer science. On the other hand, ICBMs made the whole thing obsolete in a few short years. Interesting fact : SAGE technology was ultimately re-used for air traffic control, and is also the basis for all modern airline reservation systems.

A SAGE console (and a few CPUs) is on display at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA, along with working difference engine.

Anybody know if any of the SAGE blockhouses are still extant? Or were they all knocked down? I feel like they'd make for awesome museums in and of themselves.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:48 AM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Someone so needs to Photoshop prototypical light gun guy so that he is playing Duck Hunt.
posted by oulipian at 12:28 PM on January 24, 2013


Afroblanco:

Some SAGE blockhouses still exist, apparently. I think they've mostly been "repurposed." There's one in Madison, Wisconsin, and another one in Duluth, Minnesota.
posted by Bummus at 12:29 PM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


There are some more descriptions of use of the vector scope, from the SAGE archivists.
There was computer music and a computer game, in addition to computer pin-up/burlesque art.
posted by the Real Dan at 12:46 PM on January 24, 2013


In Wargames 2, we see the adolescent Joshua coming-of-age as he awkwardly discovers the female form...
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 1:10 PM on January 24, 2013


oulipian: The Hunting Simulation Display Console
posted by GenericUser at 3:13 PM on January 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


No question the 50s were a Fantasyland for defense contractors. Not to mention other human experimenters.
posted by Twang at 5:14 PM on January 24, 2013


Should be noted that by that time, RTTY art (made on radioteletypes) had been around for quite some time ... since it was invented by newswire operators - once paper tape made it possible to create and reproduce the pix and swap them, "online". Commonest were the "cheesecake" and holiday pictures.

Since this practice no doubt translated to the military (as it did to radio hams by the 1950s), it's likely (though the picture is too crude to tell) that this is RTTY art.
posted by Twang at 9:17 PM on January 24, 2013


The Hunting Simulation Display Console

Yes! This is the best. Excellent work!
posted by oulipian at 9:23 PM on January 24, 2013


The Hunting Simulation Display Console

Throughout the decades, mankind has been haunted by the enigmatic laughing dog.
posted by thecaddy at 4:44 AM on January 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


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